Sensory Room Setup: The Tools

Now that we have the environmental setup as well as the policies and procedures, let’s talk about the tools and activities that can be useful in a sensory room.  It is a good idea to have a variety of options in your sensory room to meet the needs of all students.  Remember, use of the sensory room tools should be guided by an occupational therapist as some, if used inappropriately, can cause increased dysregulation.   Today, let’s explore some common sensory room tools, broken down by sensory system!

Vestibular Tools

The vestibular system references our sense of movement.  Therefore, any activities or equipment that require movement can activate the vestibular system. Students can seek this input, or be more sensitive to it.  Most often, items in a sensory room target students who seek vestibular input.  Some common sensory room items that target this system include:

  • Swing
  • Therapy ball
  • Scooter
  • Balance beam
  • Stepping stones
  • Trampoline

Proprioceptive Tools

The proprioceptive system helps us understand where our body is in space. Sensory tools that target the proprioceptive system can be very powerful in supporting self regulation.  Some common sensory room tools/strategies that target this system include:

  • Heavy work activities (click here for ideas)
  • Squeeze machine
  • Crash pad
  • Bean bag
  • Theraband
  • Theraputty
  • Weighted items

Visual Tools

Visual tools can be very regulating.  Additionally, sometimes increased visual clutter in an environment can be overwhelming.  Here are some visual considerations for the sensory room:

  • Fluorescent light covers or keeping lights dim
  • LED projections
  • Tent 
  • Decreased visual clutter on the walls
  • Visual fidgets
  • Light bright

Oral Motor Tools

Oral motor input is super regulating for students.  I find that my students access this input throughout the day.  Some helpful oral motor strategies include:

  • chewing gum
  • use of a water bottle
  • blowing bubbles
  • crunchy/chewy snacks during the day 
  • use of a chewy

Auditory Tools

The auditory system is our sense of hearing.  Some students may seek auditory input, and others may be sensitive to it.  Some common sensory room items that target this system include:

  • Music
  • Instruments
  • Noise canceling headphones

Olfactory Tools

Olfactory tools target our sense of smell.  Here are some items you may include in the sensory room to target this system:

  • Scented markers
  • Essential oils

Tactile Tools

Often, students who seek tactile input benefit from organized time to do so, especially when paired with proprioceptive and vestibular activities.  You will certainly want to have a variety of tactile activities/tools in your sensory room, which may include:

  • Fidgets
  • Sensory bins (beans, rice)
  • Fabric with interesting textures
While this is not an exhaustive list, it can be a helpful place to start when trying to identify tools that may work in your sensory room.  What are some of your favorite sensory room tools?


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